Our elders have called for a time of congregational prayer and fasting tomorrow, the eve Independence Day, and we invite you all to join us. Fasting, however, is not something that we are all that familiar with and for that reason, I’ve made up a very brief primer on fasting to assist the members of our congregation. Much more could be said of course, but if you fast, please remember these things:
A Fasting Primer
What is fasting? Fasting is the voluntary abstinence from food for a particular period of time for the purpose of humbling ourselves before God and seeking His forgiveness and the restoration of His blessing. Fasting is one of the ways we acknowledge that we have sinned and deserve death.
Just as one of the chief blessings God gives is food (Deut. 28:4-5,8,11-12), one of the marks of repentance and contrition for our sins is abstaining from food.
Thus, in Scripture, fasting is most often connected with grief over sin:
- God called for an annual fast on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 23:27-29).
- When David’s son by Bathsheba lay dying as a consequence of David’s sin, he fasted in repentance (2 Sam. 12:15-16).
- When Nehemiah heard of the desolation of Jerusalem, he fasted, acknowledging the judgment of God upon covenant-breaking Israel (Neh. 1:4).
- When Jonah preached to the people of Ninevah of God’s anger and judgment against them, they repented with fasting (Jonah 3:5).
- When Paul was struck down by the Lord on the road to Damascus, he spent the next three days in fasting and prayer (Acts 9:9).
Fasting is also a response of the people of God during times of crises and danger:
- When Jehosaphat heard the news of the Syrian invasion, he called for a fast (2 Chron. 20:2) to beg for God’s protection.
- Ezra calls for a fast when he begs God for protection as the Jews return to Israel (Ezra 8:21).
- Esther calls for a fast among the Jews before she goes to see the King (Esther 4:16).
Jesus assumes that there will times after His resurrection and ascension that will call for fasting (Matt. 9:15). In the Sermon on the Mount, He condemns the hypocritical fasting of the scribes and Pharisees, but then instructs His disciples on the proper way of fasting (Matt. 6:17-18). Thus, fasting was a common practice of the Church during times of crisis and danger (Acts 13:2; 14:23).
How ought we to fast?
- Not like the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 6:16).
- We must fast with sincerity – sincerely acknowledging our sins and the fact that we don’t deserve God’s food. By fasting, we agree with God’s judgment of our sins. We acknowledge that we deserve to starve to death. Fasting is an acknowledgment that there are things more important than our own well-being and comfort. God’s glory and the good of others take priority over my own comfort and satisfaction.
- We must not fast in despair but with holy confidence in God’s grace and mercy. He delights in mercy and stands ready to forgive (Isa 58:6-11).
What ought we to confess?
- Confess your personal sins and the sins of your family.
- Confess the sins of our church.
- Confess the sins of the Church in our country and the world.
- Confess the sins of our country and the world.
Helps: Think through the 10 commandments and confess sins (you may want to use the exposition of the commandments in the Westminster Shorter or Larger Catechism). Pray through Psalm 51; the prayer of Nehemiah for Israel (Neh. 1:4-11); the prayer of Daniel (Dan. 9:3-19); Romans 12-13; 1 Cor. 13; Eph. 4:17-6:20; etc.